4 Things That make Fresh Orange Juice Extraordinary for Health
[Evidence Based & Fact Checked]
Recently, orange juice was given a 1 star health rating by the Australian government, which puts it on a par with Diet Coke, Pringles, and the last Star Wars film.
But is OJ actually as bad as "they" say?
Today I'll take you through what the research says about OJ and give you a final verdict on if OJ has been proven innocent, or guilty. I'll also show you some ways that you can apply this information to your diet to get the most benefit possible.
Written by Steve Collins, B. App Sci (Ex. Phys), ISSN on March 30, 2021
For reference, when I talk about orange juice in this article, I'm always referring to fresh squeezed rather than from concentrate.
To get any debate about fresh vs concentrate right out of the way early: don't drink OJ made from concentrate. It's not a superfood.
People get nervous about orange juice because of the sugar - obviously. There are 3 main causes for concern when it comes to sugar:
- the calories
- the effect on spiking blood sugar and insulin
- the inflammation and other nasty things about sugar
Orange juice contains and ideal ratio of glucose to fructose (both types of sugar), a hefty amount of potassium and magnesium, and is of course rich in vitamin C.
The sugar in orange juice is metabolically supportive. Fructose, so long as it isn't consumed repeatedly or is over-consumed, has a protective role in the metabolism and also increases the metabolic rate (2) (3).
The effect on blood sugar
Orange juice does have a reasonably significant effect on blood sugar. However, it's a lower effect than most complex carbohydrates, breads and breakfast cereals due to the type of sugar present (fructose), and the presence of fibre (4).
You can further reduce the impact that orange juice has on blood sugar by always drinking OJ in the presence of a meal that contains some fat. For example, scrambled eggs and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice is a weekend go-to of mine. The fat in the eggs helps to lower the rate of digestion of the meal, and therefore, lowers the load of energy flooding into your bloodstream.
Other ways to lower the glycemic load include leaving the pulp in the juice (5), going for a walk or exercise after drinking your OJ, or take a glucose disposal agent with your OJ such a Bitter Melon, Berberine or Banaba leaf.
The downside of eating sugar?
Removing sugar from its natural source removes it from the very compounds and vitamins that are evolved to go with the sugar to make it a far better source of nutrition for most people.
Squeezing sugar out of sugar cane, and putting it with flour, vegetable oil and frosting to make a donut is not the same as sugar in orange juice.
All water isn't the same - nor is all sugar. Context is key to any discussion around sugar.
A study by Ghanim, et al in 2007 found that "orange juice does not induce either oxidative or inflammatory stress, possibly due to its flavonoid content and might, therefore, represent a potentially safe energy source.” (1)
Diet adherence is the key success measure of any diet (6). I've consistently found in my clinical nutrition practice that "allowing" people to drink some fresh orange juice (ie. some sugar) reduces late night sugar cravings, binge eating and snacking, while increasing diet adherence.
4 Extraordinary Properties of Orange Juice (and oranges!)
1. It contains high amounts of Naringenin which has biological effects like:
- promotes better use of carbohydrates
- decreases lipid peroxidation (damage to cells)
- increases antioxidant defenses
- scavenges reactive oxygen species
- exerts anti-atherogenic (reduces coronary artery plaque) and anti-inflammatory effects (7),(8)
- modulates signaling pathways related to fatty acids metabolism, which favours fatty acids oxidation, impairs lipid accumulation in liver and thereby prevents fatty liver (9)
- impairs plasma lipids and lipoprotein accumulation (10)
- potentiates intracellular signaling responses to low insulin doses by sensitizing hepatocytes to insulin (11)
- anti-cancer, anti-proliferative and anticarcinogenic effects have also been ascribed to this metabolite (12)
2. It contains high amounts of Vitamin C
Just about everyone knows this one. A question to you from personal experience: have you ever just felt like a glass of orange juice when you're sick?
The body has a lot of built in wisdom, and fresh orange juice is a traditional food, used for centuries with good reason. Use it wisely in the context of energy balance (not eating too much for the amount of activity you do).
3. Make marmalade with the peel for an even higher dose of anti-inflammatory substances.
Marmalade was originally created as a medicinal substance to combat the problem of scurvy in the British Navy (13).
In the orange peel, there is a higher amount of Naringenin than in the actual fruit, so making marmalade from the peel of an organic orange is an interesting way to get in some orange.
Here's an awesome recipe for the marmalade.
4. Oranges (juice and/or peel) are anti-cancer.
Naringenin exerts anti-cancer effects through its remarkable effect on promoting tumor cell death. It has also been shown to inhibit the growth of melanomas, with some real promise existing as a potential safe and effective therapeutic agent to treat this deadly cancer (14).
Verdict: Is orange juice extraordinary or ordinary?
Fresh orange juice is clearly "healthy" in the context of appropriate use and can safely be included into your diet. Government guidelines and en masse advice is never going to provide context - and context is key around any discussion on sugar.
If you'd like to work with me on getting a glass of fresh OJ into your diet, tap here to learn more about how.